March 31, 2016

Why women will get equal pay and who we will thank for it

Women are capable of achieving amazing feats, and for centuries we've done it without recognition. But now, we're achieving way too much to do it without equal pay.

In the last few months, female voices are getting louder, the discontent over the gender wage gap is getting stronger and we're rallying the way we did decades ago when we wanted the opportunity to vote in America. Today, I woke up to learn that five players from the World Cup-winning U.S. national team have accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination in an action filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Women soccer players want equal pay and they should get it. It's an awesome goal.


The soccer players' lawsuit comes only weeks afters the subject of equal pay in tennis grabbed headlines. It started with awful comments by BNP Paribas Opentournament CEO Raymond Moore said female players in the Women’s Tennis Association “ride on the coattails of the men.” He followed up by suggesting that women should “go down every night on [their] knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.” Moore has since issued an official apology for his “erroneous” comments that were in “poor taste.” But Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s player, who won on the men’s finals this weekend, added more fuel to the fire, saying that men should “fight for more” money because their matches have more spectators that those played by women.

Serena Williams, wasn't going to take that and fired back, saying “I think Venus, myself, a number of players—if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister—I couldn’t even bring up that number,” she added.

SerenaSerena got her point across. Moore took so much heat for his comments about women's pay that he announced he was stepping down as CEO of the tournament.

Outside of the sports world, the call for fair pay has cropped up in other professions. In my Miami Herald column yesterday, I wrote about young female lawyers in Florida surveyed by the Florida Bar who complained of inequities in compensation in the legal industry. Their collective voices are bringing attention to the issue in the legal community.

And then there is the attention Jennifer Lawrence has brought to equal pay in Hollywood for actresses. In a widely read essay Jennifer addressed wage gap in Hollywood, which was made explicitly clear to her after the Sony hacking scandal revealed she was paid less than her male co-stars in "American Hustle."  She wrote that she wasn't so much upset with Sony as she was with herself, believing she "failed as a negotiator." She attributed this failure to "an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.'" 

Her piece sparked not only sparked discussion, it launched the Women Entertaining Change movement in JlawHollywood in which actresses and female directors are speaking out about fair pay and opportunities for women. The Today Show has been highlighting outspoken women in Hollywood and their demands for an equal playing field.

Women may have gotten the Equal Pay Act in 1963, making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same type of work, but today, women are still paid, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, that pay gap is even wider. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, intended to restore and improve on equal pay law.

Yet, women still experience pay inequality across the board -- whether you're Hollywood's , a clerk in a retail store or a businesswoman.

My mother's generation went mostly for jobs that were set aside for women. My generation fought to ascend into careers that had been off limits and we're still fighting to get the leadership positions in businesses that we think we deserve. Now come the millennial women and they assume they are going to be business leaders, law firm partners, world renowned athletes and Oscar winning actresses --  and they want to be paid equally for it. They are speaking out about it -- loudly. 

I believe they will be heard.

Not because the men want to hear them, but because they no longer can afford not to hear them. These women are their daughters, their wives, their bosses.They are smart, competent, and increasingly well educated and think big. They are saving lives, directing corporate strategy, winning sports events, bringing audiences to the movie theaters, representing litigants, discovering cures and inspiring the next generation of women who will make a difference in the world.

These young women see that they are sacrificing as much as men and working just as much and they want to be appreciated for it. Not with praise or trophies but with equal treatment and compensation.

Their voices are loud. Their strategies are targeted. Their actions are creating dialogue. I believe the time is now and equal pay is in their grasp. 



March 29, 2016

5 Ways to Overcome Work Life Balance Obstacles

Some professions are more demanding than others. Law is one of those demanding professions. It can be particularly challenging for young attorneys who want to prove themselves, but also want a life outside the practice of law.

In a new Florida Bar survey of young women lawyers, one female attorney complained her partners had no understanding of work life balance or her need to pick up a sick child from school. "Too many male partners  have stay at home wives who don't understand that I have to do the same things their wives do while also working."

Another female attorney suggested firms entirely reinvent their culture to respect singles who want a personal life. Both are valid reasons why work life balance concerns need addressing.

Today, my guest bloggers are  Leslie R. Pollack and Christina M. Himmel, associates at Kluger Kaplan in Miami. The two women have some great suggestions for lawyers or anyone struggling to overcome work life balance challenges:



Leslie Pollack
(Leslie Pollack)          

This is 2016. It is a year where we could witness Hillary Clinton become the first female President of the United States. It is a time where women have ostensibly shattered whatever glass ceiling may have existed in the past. Yet, despite the perceived progress for women, there are still obstacles to overcome, including work-life balance.

For young women lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging for a multitude of reasons. Inequality in pay, respect, and advancement are among the issues confronting young women lawyers. According to a recent survey conducted by the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, 43% of young women attorneys have experienced gender bias.

One of the survey participants said that she left a job because she “was told by the managing partner that [she] did not have to worry about making money and moving ahead because [she] would get married one day and will not have to worry about living expenses."


Christina Himmel-1
(Christina Himmel)


More than a quarter of the female lawyers surveyed reported that they resigned from a position due to lack of advancement, employer insensitivity, and lack of work-life balance.

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for a young woman lawyer—and young lawyers generally—is the expectation of being accessible and “on call” 24/7. When the partners were our age and they left for the day, they left. Because of the ease of technology, we're never really away from office as long as we have our phones. 

While 24/7 access may seem overwhelming, here are a few tips to keep everything in perspective and help maintain that sought after work-life balance:

1.     Establish boundaries. For example, when you get home from work you may decide not to check your emails for the first hour so you can spend uninterrupted quality time with your family. On the weekends, you might look at your phone and address an issue with a quick email saying you will handle the matter first thing Monday. That way, you are appeasing your employer but still maintaining a level of balance

2.     Stick to your plan. Don’t get discouraged if you have a week where work completely infringes on your personal life.  Work-life balance is a process and work demands often are cyclical. Ride the cycle and keep your eye on the big picture rather than becoming frustrated by the work life balance challenge going on in the moment.

3.     Take time for yourself. Whether you like exercising or traveling, be sure you make time to pursue your interests outside the practice of law. It's always easy when work for a partner who is understanding and takes family life seriously. Make an effort to convey that personal time is important to you and that if if one suffers, the other will too. 

4.     Create your own definition of success. Success looks different to everyone so it is important to establish your own personal career goals and pursue them. For one person, success might be billing 2,500 hours and taking the quickest track to partner. For another person, success might mean doing well at their job and being someone who the client comes to for advice, but not necessarily being the first one in and last one out.

5. Have a work life conversation. Don't be afraid to discuss flexible work options with a law partner or manager. One of the great advantages of technology is the ability to leave the office at a reasonable time, go meet friends or family for dinner, and then finish a pending assignment later in the evening from the comfort of your own home.

While modern technology has certainly changed the way we work, it has also opened the door to benefits like flexible schedules and the ability to work from any location. For young  lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging, but also quite doable.

April 30, 2015

Pope Frame thinks the wage gap is a shame, why don't CEOs?

There are lots of people who don't believe the wage gap between men and women really exists. And then there's Pope Francis.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis used his high profile platform to make the world realize that equal pay for equal work benefits not only women, but also families.

While making audience Wednesday at the Vatican, Pope Francis called the gender pay gap a "pure scandal" in remarks on marriage and family.

A pure scandal!

He also said it is wrong to blame the troubles of modern marriage on women's liberation. Rather he said that economic stresses are a bigger problem for marriages. Those stresses could be lessened if women were paid fairly. He is so right!

This morning, I heard a radio host speak about how her friend became a boss and realized that the men in his department were paid more than the women for the same job responsibilities. He was disgusted and asked for the women to be given a bump in salary. When his boss refused, he agreed to give part of his next raise to the women who earned less. How great is that!

It is no secret that many women still earn less than men for the same job. And when women seem to infiltrate a profession, suddenly the salaries decline. My friend recently told me that she heard the publisher of my newspaper speak about how more of the newsroom are held by women. My friend pointed out that this is because the salaries in the profession aren't rising with journalism jobs on the decline. It made me sad to think she might be right.

Just last week, American's observed Equal Pay Day, a sobering reminder that a stubborn wage gap persists. 

The National Partnership for Women & Families called the wage gap: "pervasive and punishing."

Here are some sad facts:   If the gap between the wages of women and men who work full time, year round were eliminated, a mother in the United States would have enough money for 2.4 more years of food, 11 more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 18 more months of rent, 25 more months of child care, or 6,600+ gallons of gas

Women in the European Union were paid 16.4 percent less than men on average in 2013, according to statistics agency Eurostat. United States Census Bureau data indicate women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, based on annual median salaries.

Think of the difference it could make in how women balance their work and family if we closed the wage gap. More mothers could afford to buy a car, hire a babysitter, pay their medical bills.

I wondered long ago why CEOs don't look at their payroll and make sure women and men who work the job earn the same pay. 

Members of Congress have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, supported by President Obama, which would help break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and establish stronger workplace protections for women. How unfortunate it is that we need such legislation! The reality is simple: Two people do the same job, they should be paid the same amount.

Pope Francis gets it. Even Obama seems to get it. Why can't employers get it?

We need to close that wage gap. We need men to care that their wives, sisters and daughters are affected and that in the end, everyone pays the price. We need change and we need it now!

Do you think the pope's words will be enough to get business leaders to re-examine their payrolls? If not, what do you think it will take?


February 24, 2015

How to land a new job when you're pregnant

Recently, I watched a random episode of the House of Lies. It was my first time watching the show and Kristen Bell's character, Jeannie Van Der Hooven,  was pregnant. In the show, she plays a high powered management consultant whose firm is being investigated by the Feds. So, Van Der Hooven decides to explore her career options. That's when a recruiter pal tells her no one is going to hire her when she's pregnant. In fact, the recruiter quite bluntly advises her to stay put.

I found it realistic and disturbing.

Mary-Ellen-Slayter0008.vu_Today, my guest blogger Mary Ellen Slayter,CEO/Founder of Reputation Capital Media Services and's HR and Careers Expert. She shares her advice for finding a job while pregnant and believes the key is to know your rights and have a plan in place before you head out to an interview. 

She offers this advice:

Looking for a job when you’re pregnant can feel like a huge challenge. If you’re not showing yet, you may feel like you need to hide the fact that you’re pregnant and will soon need some time off. If you are showing, you may feel like going through job interviews aren’t even worth it. But it’s not impossible to get a job while you’re pregnant. Here’s what you need to know.

Laws protect you


It’s important to remember the law is on your side when you’re interviewing while pregnant. “Laws protect pregnant applicants from discrimination and employers cannot require you to disclose your pregnancy,” says Cynthia Thomas Calvert, an employment lawyer and president of Workforce 21C.


Of course, your situation may be obvious. “Applicants may not be able to hide a pregnancy, or they may feel that it is better to disclose so that if they are hired they do not start their employment under a cloud of suspicion and distrust.”

Make a plan


Calvert says pregnancy discrimination is often based on assumptions about how pregnant women will or should act as employees, such as being too tired or too sick to work, taking off too much time, having "pregnancy brain" and not being committed to their job. “These biases may be open and blatant, or hidden and unconscious. Regardless, they affect the hiring process.”


She suggests saying things along the lines of, “I enjoy being a sales manager, and I want you to know that if you hire me, I will work very hard to be the best manager I can be. I am very committed to my career and to helping people who work with me to do their best. I know that we will have to work out some logistics based on my pregnancy, and I have some ideas for how we can do that.”

Believe in yourself


You are interviewing for new jobs because you believe you can do them. Let that shine through, says Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer at Talent Think Innovations LLC. “I was six months pregnant with my oldest child when I got a new job,” she says. “My advice is to have the same confidence in your abilities during pregnancy that you would if you weren't pregnant. Don't let pregnancy create unnecessary insecurities that make an employer start to second guess you.”


Finding a woman-friendly environment can help. “I have hired two women while they were pregnant. Three other women announced they were pregnant shortly after I hired them,” says Kassy Perry, president and CEO of Perry Communications Group.  She says men have asked her why she would hire a pregnant woman. “As a mother of two adult daughters, I typically chuckle and tell them that I didn’t realize pregnancy was a terminal illness and I guess I’m lucky to be back at work and successful after having two children.”


Readers, have you ever had to job hunt while pregnant? If so, what was that experience like? Managers, have you ever considered a candidate who was pregnant? What circumstances would lead you to hire that person? 

July 31, 2014

Women can become law firm partners - and have a life

As a young lawyer, Tiffani Lee found a partner who believed in her ability and helped push her up to the top ranks of Miami’s Holland & Knight. Most often, the opposite is true: Organizational mechanisms at firms push out women and people of color.

But in a room full of women and minority lawyers, I heard some great advice on how to change that pattern. Here’s an employer and employee guide for how to navigate the challenges that lead people to leave.

Inclusion: Don’t leave women and minorities on the fringes. Amy Furness, a shareholder with the lawfirm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami, says having someone in a leadership role who recognizes and shows a commitment to diversity by his actions can help the message of inclusion permeate throughout the firm, which can be particularly important for those partners who may not be thinking about diversity when they choose staff to work on their cases. “Getting leadership involved in ensuring inclusion prevents [diversity] from becoming marginalized,” Furness said.

Accountability: It is easy to create company policies that promote diversity, flexibility and volunteerism and work/life control. But there are some partners who will tell young associates that if they want to be successful, they should not take advantage of those policies. That is where accountability becomes crucial.

Tiffani Lee at Holland & Knight, said partners at her firm are evaluated — and even compensated — based partly on how many opportunities they provide to women and minority associates and what they’ve done to support diversity and inclusion. “The only way to drive change is to factor it into compensation,” Lee says. At her firm, partners “are asked about who is on their team and how they are working with the client to ensure the team is diverse and and how they are supporting the firm’s broader diversity efforts.”

She says ties between a commitment to values and compensation happen at all levels. Associates perform a self evaluation, too. They are eligible for a diversity kudos bonus if they have done something extraordinary.

Flexibility: At some point, the success of the firm – and the diverse talent pool — will depend on whether it offers flexibility, Most associates want a reputation for getting things done; however, they want control over how and when.

“We need to change the mindset around flexibility,” Says Manor Morales, president and CEO of the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance. “When managers hear flexibility, they think people don’t want to work as hard. Flexibility is not just reduced hours but also control over hours. It’s a different way to approach work and people actually achieve increased efficiency."

At most firms, men are taking advantage of flexibility – although informally and quietly. Morales found at one firm, a senior male partner works from home every Monday, but few realize it. "Flexibility will be embraced when firms encourage people who have power to be open about how and when they use flexibility."

Succession: While most law firms have eliminated a mandatory retirement age, many of the boomers at the top will begin paring back in the next decade. As leaders retire, it creates opportunity for the next generation – and for more inclusion. Some firms already are planning ahead.

Nikki Lewis Simon, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, says her firm has worked consciously to bring women and minority lawyers into leadership, onto the executive committee and onto committees that interact with senior management. This allows the firm to address issues of the next generation not just years from now, but today.

“I think the next generation of leaders will have a sense of mutual respect: With them, it isn’t us and them, it’s we. There’s an understanding that we all have stuff we want to accomplish outside the office.”

Transparency: Women who have made it to the top have this advice for others: Don’t over-explain.

Women tend to give a detailed explanation for why they need to leave early or work from home. “They give much more information than necessary,” says Yuliya Laroe, a lawyer and business coach. Laroe say that often hurts them when partners assume if they don’t see them in the office, they are with their kids. “We need to empower ourselves to believe it’s no one’s business as long as we have met our deliverables.”

Simon, a mother of five, says she advanced to partner while on maternity leave, and has been quite clear about her whereabouts to derail assumptions: “I let them know when don’t see me, it doesn’t mean I’m not working. It just means I’m not working here. I’m doing something to advance cause of the firm.”

Time management/work-life control: Getting to the top to become an equity partner and staying there is giant responsibility that requires the ability to bring in business and make a contribution to the firm’s bottom line while balancing home life and community involvement.

Morales tells lawyers to be strategic. “You could have activities that fill your plate but not all give you the same benefit,” she explains, adding that women tend to be on committees that don’t advance their careers. “When you’re asked, think, ‘Will this committee connect me with the right people? Is it valued in the firm? Or, is it just busy work?’”

Clearly, support for talented women and minorities needs to be evident at all levels. Says Laroe: “People don’t leave firms, they leave individual partners who make staying difficult.”

Photo by The Miami Herald: Tiffani Lee with her mentees and her mentor pictured behind her.

April 09, 2013

How are you celebrating Equal Pay Day 2013?


Equal pay day


Today, I'd love to be at a local town hall meeting bringing attention to Equal Pay Day. But I'm slammed with deadlines. (I hate when work gets in the way of fun!) So, instead, I'm celebrating Equal Pay Day by brainstorming strategic coverage I can give the topic throughout the year.

White women are paid 77 cents, black women 69 cents and Hispanic women 60 cents for every dollar paid to a white male. If women were paid equal to men, we'd be able to afford some of the conveniences that make a difference in our work life balance -- better child care, healthier take out meals, dog walkers, etc. These conveniences not only make our lives easier, they make our entire family lives better. We can't go another generation with women earning less than men for doing the same job.

Now, I ask you, what are you doing to celebrate Equal Pay Day?

It could be something as simple as talking to your children about the wage gap and encouraging them to make changes when they enter the workplace. 

It could be something as simple as writing a quick email to your state representative to let him or her know this is an issue you care about.

It could be something as simple as asking for a raise, and telling your boss why you deserve one. Or asking for a raise for your female assistant.

It could be something as simple as re-tweeting a tweet or reposting a Facebook post in support of Equal Pay Day.

It could be something as simple as wearing red today, and telling people why you are wearing red.

I'm sure you can think of lots of other things to do. Just do something and share your thoughts!


March 07, 2013

Women feel unappreciated at work. Here's how to change that.


I can't tell you how many times my husband has wanted or expected to be thanked for doing a chore I do on a regular basis. I am one of those women who at times feels underappreciated at home -- even as I try harder than ever to strike work life balance. 

American women now are experiencing that same feeling of being underappreciated in the workplace and it's time to do something about it.

The American Psychological Association reports that half of women (48 percent) feel less valued than men at work, and only 43 percent of women feel they receive adequate monetary compensation for their work (versus 48 percent of men). Moreover, only 35 percent of women think that they have opportunities for career advancement (versus 43 percent of men).

Our feeling that we're under valued in the workplace has some substance behind it. Did you know the average female makes an annual salary 25 percent less than her male colleagues?

This strong emotion of feeling that our contributions aren't appreciated may even be behind what's making us stressed -- the APA study found women report much more work stress than men, that their stress has increased over the last five years and that it causes headaches and upset stomachs.

Our big problem as women is that we tend to internalize the stress more than men. As Vivia Chen points out on her Careerist blog, "men have a fight or flight reaction" while women will "shut up and stay put."

If women are feeling undervalued at work, we should speak up. It may sound intimidating but it's probable that the men we work with or for have no idea we feel underappreciated.

John Gray, author of the soon to be released WORK WITH ME:  The Blind Spots between Men and Women in Business, found there's a big gender blindspot around feeling appreciated at work. When he asked men if they women they worked with felt appreciated, the majority answered yes. But when he asked the women they said no. Gray found the standard way of doling out recognition and praise can leave female employees feeling frustrated and overlooked. He also discovered most men are oblivious to the little gestures of consideration that make a huge difference to women.

Some also seem to be oblivious to the big gestures.

Yesterday, a large Miami law firm sent out a press release announcing that it has named 12 new partners. Of those, only three are women. I find this troublesome considering the majority of law grads and new associates these days are women. Do you think the women in that firm feel appreciated?

For many women, this fear of asking for the appreciation we deserve is a problem: we are great advocates for others, but paralyzed when it comes to doing it for ourselves. 
Going forward, we have to realize that men are not going to take it upon themselves to make us feel appreciated -- we have to shed our shut up and stay put attitude and ask for appreciation (in pay, advancement and assignments) if we deserve it.  
We've slowly begun to change expectations at home, to gain some more appreciation for our contributions. Now, we have to do the same in our workplaces.


February 19, 2013

Men are from Mars, Women from Venus: How does this affect us at work?

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. 

His new book is called WORK WITH ME:  The Blind Spots between Men and Women in Business, and it applies his expertise to male/female relationships and interactions in the workplace.  His co-author is Barbara Annis, Chair of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a world-renowned expert on workplace gender issues.  So as you can see, they’re the perfect pair to take on this topic!

I was excited to talk to John about his new book that will be released in May. 

John-gray-118-headshotJohn and Barbara have been studying the way men and women behave in the workplace and they discovered that there are big differences that cause us to miscommunicate and send the wrong signals to each other.  A little gender intelligence can help you in your career.

One thing they discuss in particular is how men and women deal with workplace stress differently.  And of course, how this bleeds over in to our personal lives.  John explained to me there are biological reasons why women respond to stress by releasing their feelings and bonding with loved ones, while men either have tunnel vision until they solve their problem, or just ignore it if it’s beyond their control.

Here are a few findings in his book that John shared with me: 

* Solving problems and achieving goals in the workplace takes a greater toll on women. Women lack testerone that naturally lowers cortisol levels. When women are stressed, they tend to take on more responsiblities. What they need to do instead, is find ways to de-stress. John suggests women up their romance quotient by planning an evening out. If they don’t’ have partner, he recommends creating an opportunity to feel they are being treated in special way, such as getting a massage.

John explained to me that gender blind spots are ways of unknowingly putting off the opposite sex in the workplace. Here is how to be more attuned to them: 

* Questions. Men think women ask too many questions. Men are annoyed by this. Women don't realize men think this way. Sometimes a woman may be making a point with her questions and have no idea she is agitated a male co-worker.

* Appreciation. Women don't feel appreciated in the workplace. Men think they are making a woman feel appreciated, but the women doesn't feel that way. Men need to more effectively communicate a female worker is valued and appreciated. Men need to understand little gestures of consideration make a huge difference to women.

* Exclusion. Women often feel excluded in the workplace when they aren't invited to attend a lunch or join in a conversation. Men don't feel excluded. They don't need an invitation. The concept of being left out does not exist from a man’s perspective. In a conversation, instead of a woman asking, "Can I say something?" just join in.

* Attention. If a man is focused on a computer screen or a project and can't shift attention, women feel offended if he ignores them. Don't. Men don't. Just ask again. A woman might even ask, "Can I have one minute of your time?" Any man will give one minute. . 

* Emotion. John and Barbara asked men whether women are too emotional in the workplace. About 90 percent said yes. They asked women if they thought women were too emotional and 80 percent said no. They found when they pointed this difference out, people said it made sense but there are lots of people in academia trying to disprove the obvious truth. Men try to avoid an emotional response but must realize that validating a woman’s perspective is more important than simply agreeing with her or avoiding her

* Internalizing. Many times men will say something and women take it personally. They may feel a man is picking on them. Men don't take anything personally. For example, 80 percent of the people who go online for porn are men. Men are turned on by the impersonal. Women want personal. A man's fear of offending female colleagues can jeopardize fruitful working relationships.

John is convinced that with a little gender insight, men and women can find ways to get what they need from each other in the workplace. 

John's website is He says he is available online on weekday mornings from 9 to 10:30 a.m. to answer questions on gender differences. Visit the community board on his website to submit questions. 


Work with me


February 13, 2013

Do successful businesswomen struggle with romance?

Is it more difficult for high achieving women to find success in love? I set out to find that out.

In a conversation with Osmara Vindel, a Miami business professional, she told me that she is divorced and has been dating for three years. She says she came to discover her struggles in relationships were about her, not he men in ther life. She says marriage and her dating life were challenging until she led her guard down, made romance a priority, and allowed herself to get out of business mode and feel comfortable with a man. Now, one month into a new relationship, she says all is going well. With Valentine's Day approaching, maybe its time for all of us to think about our work life balance and whether we give romance the priority it deserves.

Here's my column from today's Miami Herald. I'd love to hear your thoughts....

Whether they’re dating or married, high-earning women need to leave work mode at the office.

Maya Ezratti, left, is a relationship coach and is coaching Suzette Diaz, right, a client.
Maya Ezratti, left, is a relationship coach and is coaching Suzette Diaz, right, a client.

While on a blind date, Alexandra Arguelles found herself behaving as if she were interviewing a candidate for a job.

“I caught myself asking him question after question and trying to control everything.” Afterward, she says she felt as if she had been at a business dinner.

“It’s not easy for me to be laid back,” says Arguelles, a 42-year-old sales executive at a travel IT company in Miami. “But on my next date, I’m going to try.”

Women have made huge strides in business. We have climbed to the top of companies, built million-dollar businesses and forged into traditional male professions. We’ve positioned ourselves as some of the most powerful voices in politics and on the Internet. Yet, when it comes to romantic relationships, we still struggle to make it happen in love.


Ask the growing army of high-earning women and they will say men are intimidated by their professional and financial success, making it difficult to date and marry. But relationship experts say we have it wrong. It’s not them; it’s us.

“Today’s women just don’t seem to understand you have to leave the office at the office,” says Maya Ezratti, a relationship coach and owner of Rewarding Relationships. “You can’t treat your husband, boyfriend or date like an employee.”

Fewer Americans are married today than at any point in at last 50 years, according to a 2011 Pew Research study. The causes and consequences are the subject of much debate. But what is clear is that as more women have gained economic control over their lives, they need to switch modes when it comes to relationship dynamics.

John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, says keeping romance alive in the age of female empowerment takes getting in touch with your feminine attributes: “In the workplace, to be successful, women have to be independent, self reliant, focused on solving problems and managing people. Outside the office, those attributes are romance killers.”

In dating, Gray says a woman comes across as more attractive when she puts out a vibe she is happy and that a man can make her even happier. “Men want a job. They need to be needed,” he says. But a successful women’s natural instinct may be that she can do it all herself. “Be in touch with the part of yourself that is looking to have someone in your life that would lighten your load, and be open to receiving what he has to offer.”

In Miami, Ezratti coaches businesswomen to change their approach: “A lot of women are pursing romance like business.”

First, she advises they lose their pant suit and show up in more trendy, flirty attire. Next, she suggests they let go of being competitive. “Some women have no problem ripping men to shreds to prove their intelligence. No guy wants to go out on a date and feel like a schmuck. You don’t’ have to prove anything; the quiet one wins.”

David Berry, a 28-year-old Miami writer and author of a dating blog, affirms that most of his single male friends are scared to approach women who are rich, successful, brilliant and beautiful. They assume the women won’t be interested. “We have fears approaching women anyway. Now add in that they out earn us or drive a nicer car, and we start to doubt our ability to impress them.”

Berry says a few gestures by women can make a world of difference: Smile. Show passion for what you do. Indicate a willingness to break off chunks of time for a man. Most important, he says, men want a woman to show her soft side. “I think a lot of women fight for equality in their professional lives and assume that it’s a negative to allow yourself to be vulnerable when it comes to an emotional relationship. It’s not.”

Successful women say the challenge comes in finding a man they consider a truly equal partner, someone who contributes financially and emotionally. “In this recession, I’ve seen many men who see me just as a meal ticket,” a female senior level executive explains. “I hide my career and income from men on my dating profiles. It just makes me a target.”

Arguelles, the IT sales executive, admits she feels the same way and has become pickier. “I need someone on equal footing, someone with a steady income who is ambitious and strives for goals. Because I’m self sufficient, I don’t feel the need to settle.” This could be an increasing challenge because men disproportionately have suffered an income drop during the recession.

But it is not just dating that represents a challenge for high-achieving women. Married women say they struggle with romance too.

“I have clients who are powerful and successful women. Everything they touch turns to gold except their relationship,” says Gladys Diaz, owner of Heart’s Desire International. “Their businesses are booming and their marriages are falling apart.”

Relationship coach Gladys Diaz providing tips to business women!

December 04, 2012

Why aren't women lawyers reaching the top of their firms in pay and respect?

Years ago, the American Bar Association saw cause for concern. There were lots of female lawyers but much fewer female partners. So they set up a commission to look into why.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Gillette, a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. I was prompted into a discussion with her by a gender discrimination lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in New York against Miami's Greenberg Traurig, one of the 250 largest law firms in the country.

The lawsuit made various bold claims against Greenberg.

FranFormer shareholder Francine Friedman Griesing alleges that Greenberg pays women less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from high-level managerial positions. She says women at the firm are denied their fair share of origination credit and internal referrals. Griesing also says although she was a partner, the firm's three tiered equity structure classified her into the lowest level, while less qualified men were put in the higher, more lucrative levels. She is seeking to represent a class of current and former women shareholders at the firm. 


Her claims of gender bias were concerns I've heard before, raised by women at various large law firms including Greenberg Traurig.

So I asked Patricia her thoughts on whether women are making real progress advancing at the country's law firms and whether pervasive gender inequity remains a problem. Patricia mentioned that the current ABA President Laurel Bellows initiated a gender equity task force this year to address bias against and equal pay for women in law.

Patricia said in recent years, the tiered partnership -- equity and non equity -- has been problem for women lawyers. It has been a way for large law firms to claim they have women partners but hide the fact that they are not promoting women into equity positions where they truly share in the profits and management decisions.

In October, the National Association of Women Lawyers came out with an revealing report:

  • It found that law firm structure has important effects on women's career paths and that they have a greater chance of becoming equity partner in one-tiered firms. Meanwhile, women are increasing clustered in positions with little opportunity for advancement in law firm leadership.


  • It also found women's compensation lags men's at all levels with the greatest discrepancy at the equity partner level, where women typically earn only 89% of what men make. The gap between the median compensation of male and female equity partners cannot be explained by differences in billable hours, total hours, or books of business.


Gillette says the ABA gender equity task force wants firms to rethink way they consider compensation, making it less subjective. A goal is to create a model law firm compensation policy to ensure women are paid equally to men.

“This has been sacred ground and firms don’t want anyone messing with compensation, but closed systems like Greenberg lead to mischief. We think putting transparency into compensation systems is imperative going forward,” she said.

Don't expect firms to readily buy in.

At Greenberg, all compensation decisions are made by CEO Richard Rosenbaum, with input from other shareholders.

Greenberg's Hilarie Bass said the firm’s compensation system has always been based on meritocracy that has nothing to do with gender. “We’re compensated based on value to clients and quality of our legal work. We prefer a closed system because it enables a more collegial atmosphere to exist.” Bass also said every year the the number of women who are big originators of new business increases as does the number of women who receive top compensation.

Still, with a closed system, it's difficult for women at the firm to confirm that to be true.

Gillette said this lawsuit may help Greenberg and other firms realize they need to work harder on getting more women into positions of leadership. While she acknowledges that there are some women lawyers who don't want to reach the top tier at their firms, she says many do. “We’ve been talking and begging firms to look at these issues for so long,” Gillette said. “I’m sorry it takes a lawsuit for firms to think about this but lawsuits are the only thing lawyers understand." 

Do you believe gender discrimination is present at big law firms? How much of pay inequity and lack of advancement is from women pulling back, seeking better work life balance, and how much of it is the way law firms are managed and structured?